In Roy Underhill’s Woodwright’s School, my friend Will Myers expertly shows how to cut a very useful, yet simple wood joint: the Half Blind Lap Dovetail! Don’t get scared by the big name…in fact, I generated the name because there was no consistent name given for the joint (can I trademark this???).
You can buy this Moravian Workbench DVD that I produced here. I would encourage you to watch the above video, but the steps are really quite simple. You first cut a tail with a backsaw:
Then you use a chisel to pare and clean up the tail:
Then set the tail right on the board where you’ll be cutting & chopping your mortise (a workbench leg, in this case):
Trace the tail, and use a marking gauge to mark the mortise depth so that the tail board will be a hair above the face after it’s driven in. Then use a backsaw and chisel to remove waste down to a depth line.
Set the tail board on the new mortise and refine the fit with a chisel:
Then give some light taps with a mallet to drive the tail board in. Notice how the tail board is sitting a little high? This allows you to handplane the tail board down without hitting the mortise board: